Sunday, 26 July 2009

Week 5 Saigon

Dear Ethel, Family and friends

Another weekend passes as we explore and find new places to visit. We have been very fortunate with the weather this weekend. It’s raining this evening but we have had two great days. During the week however we have had some pretty heavy rain including a spectacular storm on Thursday. I had a student due before the storm, but when it hit and turned our street into a raging rapid in about 15 minutes, I didn’t expect to see her at all, but sure enough she turned up a bit late. Amazingly resilient people.

In our search for a pool to swim in we found a green spot on the map and decided to have a look. We borrowed a motorbike for the weekend again and went exploring. We discovered the fabulous Binh Quoi tourist village, a slice of paradise in the hustle and bustle of Saigon. The grounds of this future resort are manicured with several types of grass, like golf links. Designed around a lake adjoining the Saigon river, the most has been made of the water features available and includes dining areas in pergolas over the water. The complex has been designed to take a dozen or so functions at the same time. Numerous private BBQ pergolas are also available. Cobbled paths meander through the site over small bridges and around Lilly ponds with sculptures and other vignettes of beauty at every turn. Sorry to sound like a commercial here but Ho Chi Minh City is a big busy dusty place and finding a gem like this so close to home is simply news worthy. Most importantly it has a fantastic pool. It’s about 40,000 Dong each (A$2.70) to use. It is free to wander about but the food is a bit more expensive than our local restaurants but worth it.

Louise went to a Spa or beauty salon on Saturday. One of the students at the school is the manager. Louise thought it was fabulous, although the heavily discounted price we were given was still too much to do it regularly. We are enjoying travelling around on the bike, and can even find our way around. I’ve found the trick with riding here is that you don’t worry about what’s going on behind you, just concentrate on looking forward and sideways at the same time. We do our shopping on the bike and have worked out the bike parking protocols.

The school is doing well and expecting more students. Some of our students have tests in two week time so we are doing extra work with them and started an English talk club where we don’t have formal classes but discussions and watching some Australian TV and talking about hot topics.

Everything is going well for us, so all the best for now
Ric & Louise

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Week 4 Saigon

Dear Ethel, Family and friends,

Week four now, and our life has settled into a routine. This is now our second week at the school. The first week was a ground tester and the second week students have paid up in advance, which shows they are serious and dedicated. We have 3 more students starting next week as well. Some of the students have an IELTS test in a month, while others have their tests in 3 months. Most have a letter of offer from an employer in Australia and are just waiting on their IELTS tests.

The School itself is looking more like a school every day and we are working out of 2 classrooms now. We have a fulltime receptionist named Snow (as she has such black hair) and a full time cleaning lady has also started as well to keep the place neat and tidy. Plants arrived on Friday to make the place look a little more appealing. We still need to do a few thing, like finish the painting, hang posters on the walls, but will have to wait for the time being.

The District the school is in is about 7km from the center of the city. It’s defiantly not a tourist area and we are a constant fascination to the locals as we walk up and down the streets. We have eaten at a few street stalls, feeling they are safe enough to eat at and are so cheap. 2 Chicken, fried rice, with vegetables, a beer and a lemonade, $3. Another favorite with inside dining is the Australian Beefsteak Restaurant, serves Beef steaks, a sausage, egg and chips and with drinks costs, $8.

We borrowed a motorbike this weekend from Twee, one of the girls from Mingh’s office, who has been assigned to help us find and do things. We spent Saturday and Sunday, doing a bit of exploring cautiously. I have driven in Europe on the right hand side of the road before, and driven in Penang in chaotic Asian driving conditions. Riding a motorbike on the right through Saigon is an experience I’ll not soon forget. You might not think so when you see it, but there is an order to the chaos. I guess it will become second nature before long. All the best for now.

Ric & Louise

Google Map Link for the school

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Week 3 Saigon

Dear Ethel, Family and friends,

Posted by Louise

Still here … and so far so good. We have been teaching for a week and have about 6 to 8 candidates/student each. Ric is teaching in the afternoon and I teach in the mornings 4 hours each. The candidates are all tradespeople who have found positions in regional Australia and are sitting their IELTS test to get their working visas. They think its very unfair of the Oz Gov to put the IELTS up to 5.0 not like the previous Gov who only made them have 4.5.

The school is starting to shape up … we’ve gone from having everything on the front desk ie: all computers and printers, the scanner, all books and stationery … to getting distributed throughout the school. A computer in the staff room and stuff in the class rooms. I don’t know what they thought we were going to do in the staff room without any computer or books.

Our living quarters are adequate and clean. We have a very big bedroom and a small sitting room with a kitchen and bathroom over the hall … the school is quite a big building and after the students leave at 5.30 we have the place to ourselves until the next morning when the receptionist arrives at 7.45 and the students at 8. From our room there are 5 locked doors between us and the street so it is quiet and very safe.

Our receptionist …. Snow (who has the blackest hair … as in calling redheads - Blue) … went down to a local restaurant and got a copy of there menu and translated it into English. It’s an Australian beef steak restaurant … she thought we like beef because I have a cow on my handbag!!!! Perfectly logical. For two steaks (minute size) with chips and salad and drinks it costs us about $8 Aus … things a very cheap. We went into Saigon Q1 yesterday (about 15 min by bike) to do some shopping and decided it was expensive in town and rushed back to the burbs.

We seem to be able to find most things we need … we play charades a lot … and many of the women my age and a little older speak basic English with an American accent. Some of the children just stand and watch you for about 15 minutes and then suddenly say “Hello … how are you” and when your reply with “fine thank you … how are you” they say “I’m well” and then skip away very pleased with themselves. Having used there English lessons.

So lots of love and positive thoughts to you all.

All the best for now.

Louise & Ric

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Saigon Week 2

Dear Ethel, Family and friends,

Well here we are two weeks after arriving in Vietnam and still living in the hotel. Things happen slower here than at home. When we had a look at the school on the Thursday after we arrived, nothing had been done to the place since Kim had departed. Our Vietnamese host here, Minh assured us that all would be done by Wednesday 1st July for the ceremonial opening. I must say that we were very sceptical. In Australia we would hire 3 or 4 men for a renovation project like this and it would take 2 weeks. In Vietnam they hire 20 people and it takes 2 days. Amazing, although the smaller details seem to take forever. Ingrid, one of the Directors from Sea in Australia arrived on Monday to help hurry the process along.

We did indeed have our ceremonial opening on Wednesday as Minh had promised. We had perhaps 20 students attend as well to meet and greet with the teachers and staff. Ingrid, Louise & I were presented with bouquets of flowers and welcomed to the school. Afterwards we all attended a buffet lunch provided by Minh and his staff.

Since then the school has been taking enrolments and getting the office in shape. We have also been doing some heavy duty shopping, buying everything we need to set up our new living quarters upstairs from the school. Our living area comprises a large bedroom area 4 x 4 metres and a balcony lounge/dining area about 2.5 x 4 metres. Across the hall we have a kitchen and bathroom. It will be quite an adequate living area once it is finished. It still has no hot water or a kitchen and the whole site needs to be thoroughly cleaned before we move in, or before school starts tomorrow.

We have walked almost every inch of the city by now and have eaten in a lot of the restaurants and cafes. We went to the Reunification Palace, the Art Gallery, Cultural Museum and of course the dozens of markets around town. So we are really keen to start work now and look forward to the day to day challenges that teaching brings. All the best for now.
Ric & Louise

PS we have phone numbers, so email us and we'll send them.